Gabriel Tarde as Political Anthropologist
By Arpad Szakolczai and Bjørn Thomassen
The revival of Gabriel Tarde during the last two decades has led to a re-evaluation of disciplinary traditions in sociology. Via the work of Bruno Latour and Lépinay (2010), Tarde has recently been championed as a pioneer of economic anthropology. This article argues further that Gabriel Tarde can and must be considered a foundational thinker for political anthropology. The argument starts by revisiting the famous Tarde/Durkheim debate in 1903. Recognizing the validity of Tarde‟s critique of Durkheim, and stressing his very different methodological starting point that clearly comes closer to an “anthropological view”, the article proceeds to discuss the crucial notion of imitation, and how it comes to constitute sociality. Via the work of Tarde (especially The Laws of Imitation), the article then briefly explores the role of imitation within core themes of political anthropology, including crowd behavior, the emergence of the “public”, and – taking cue from some of Tarde‟s own suggestions - the ongoing process of globalization.
Keywords: Crowd, Imitation, Globalization, Sociality, Tarde, Publics
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